A bit of nitpicking/clarification on KiwiBuild

I’ve been working over in my head just what it is about Labour’s KiwiBuild policy that bugs me so much.  As many of its defenders and supporters say, Labour does have time to iron out any issues of costing, it’s not meant to be the panacea to all housing ills, there is more they can do to focus on the needs of non-middle-class families.

Of course, all that requires you to believe that David Shearer and his team didn’t think it was important to get all that stuff sorted before  the Speech That Will Prove Shearer Is Our New Left God Emperor, but that’s not something that would really surprise me.

My lightbulb moment struck while listening to The Egonomist, wherein rather nice things were said about me.  It’s about this bit in the information sheet put out to explain KiwiBuild:

No household type will receive preference over any other household type. Nor will there be any income restrictions. On the whole, people will ‘self-select’, with those who can afford to move up the property ladder excluding themselves

I’ve already had a wee rant about how obnoxious it is for a supposedly left-wing party to talk big about “affordable” housing and “hardworking Kiwis” and then not actually bother to ensure that hardworking Kiwis who are on, say, the median wage will actually be able to afford those homes.

But that’s not actually the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is that KiwiBuild supporters are sitting there saying “we have time to tie off the loose ends, this isn’t the complete policy” … but it’s complete enough that senior people in the Labour Party have already had the conversation about income levels.  They’ve already designed a key message to explain why there are no barriers to very, very well-off people getting into these houses.

They’ve happily left a gigantic hole in the policy about how long you’ll have to own the house before you can flip it – because I guess it was too hard to pluck a number out of the air – but they’ve explicitly decided, and tried to excuse, not excluding the wealthy from KiwiBuild.

That’s a fucking worry.

If there were just no mention of income levels, you could say “hey, they haven’t said how they’ll make sure this doesn’t get exploited by wealthy people!  Silly Labour, work that shit out before pinning your leader’s career to it!”

But in a policy where the numbers are clearly wonky (because no one could even be bothered figuring out how much land costs in Auckland) and important conditions haven’t be determined (5 years?  10?) and right after trying to sell the whole thing as a return to the great public building projects of old, Shearer’s had to explain that actually the whole thing is dependent on the private sector … they still had the time to spell out that wealthy people can just be trusted not to rort the system.  They still prioritised that as something that needed to be explained in their literature.  

So it’s not just that the policy is open to exploitation by the wealthy.  It’s that this has already been signed off as not being a problem.  Not being something that needs to be addressed.

So who the fuck are these houses being built for again?


  1. Will de Cleene

    My working title for KiwiBuild is Lotto Housie. Several points for making an effort. Minus several hundred for bald-faced left-wing sop. Labour can do better than this brand of contempt.

  2. David Christie

    This article outlines some of the structural drawbacks to KiwiBuild as a means of proving affordable housing,

    “[KiwiBuild] might solve problems such as our high levels of immigration to Australia but I’m not sure if it will address the bigger issues with our economy. Even if the government absolutely flooded the Auckland market with houses and managed to bring prices down by, say, $100,000 to a median of $480,000, most first-home owners who bought a house would still be investing a huge proportion of their capital in it. They’d probably also be putting most of their disposable income into the mortgage. And the poorest New Zealanders still couldn’t afford warm, secure homes.”

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